ALMOST EIGHT months after he was roped in to plan Congress’ strategy for the 2017 UP elections, Prashant Kishor and his team have been asked to stay away from the party’s 50-day ‘Shiksha, Suraksha, Swabhiman’ campaign, where it will reach out to Dalits in 3,000-odd villages of 85 reserved constituencies from December 4.
Sources said the party cadre has been told that “Kishor or his team has no role in planning or execution of the campaign”. This, after Kishor had planned campaigns like ‘27 Saal UP Behal’ and ‘Kisan Yatra’ for the party.
When contacted, Bhagwati Chaudhary, head of UP Congress SC Department, said: “It was decided that we would plan this campaign on our own, right from scratch, without any help from outside or the involvement of Prashant Kishor’s team. We have been able to give a shape to the campaign.”
To ensure the campaign’s success, the party, however, has taken lessons from Kishor’s style of functioning. A hundred mini raths have been prepared with a team of three volunteers being trained for each. The party has also come up with campaign material, including a two-page coloured booklet, which talks about “Dalits and their political future” and “Congress ke Daliton ke Prati 8 vachan”.
During Kisan Yatra too, Congress had made three promises to farmers, including loan waiver. This time, Congress has eight promises for Dalits — free education from KG to PG level; Rs 1,000-scholarship to every student after Class X for hostel; establishment of residential schools like Jawahar Navyodya Schools in every block; appointment of one ‘suraksha mitra’ in every police station to help probe cases of crime against Dalits; ‘Ambedkar Arogyashri’, under which Dalits and their family members can avail treatment worth up to Rs 2 lakh to government and private hospitals; houses to field labourers; Rs 3 lakh loan without guarantee for youths and appointment of ‘vikas mitra’ to help Dalits get benefits of government schemes.
The faces of the campaign will be SC department’s AICC chairman K Raju, Rajya Sabha MP P L Punia, state Congress vice-president and UP SC department in-charge Bhagwati Chaudhary and AICC coordinator Shashank Shukla. The campaign will be launched in the presence of party state in-charge Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress’ CM candidate Sheila Dikshit and other senior leaders.
Punia, who will camp in villages as part of the campaign, said: “Even with Kishor, our leaders and workers were the ones executing plans at the grassroots level. So, this time, we decided to do this on our own.”
The decision comes amid reports of strained relations between Kishor and Congress. Unlike the past, when Kishor actively participated in preparatory meetings in Lucknow, sources said he has not been seen much in Congress circles since his meeting with Mulayam and Akhilesh last month. Kishor’s organisation I-PAC had then described the meeting as a “courtesy call”.
Meanwhile, those in Kishor’s team claimed he was in Lucknow last week only to hold meetings.